If the first fixture of the NFL: London International Series was anything to go by, then the second fixture for visiting fans and local fans, was even more astonishing.
After suffering a 14-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home in Week 2, the Carolina Panthers avenged themselves and made a mean meal of the Bucs at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday. Jameis Winston attempted to make up for a host of errors and create a different outcome for the Panthers at Spurs Stadium but it wasn’t enough. The Panthers had been down as the favourites, with many expecting Christian McCaffrey to cause a storm on the pitch and McCaffrey didn’t disappoint, scoring two touchdowns for his side. The running back has now capped five TDs in the past two weeks.
Back-up quarterback, Kyle Allen started for the Panthers again on Sunday and his solid performance continues to impress, as he maintained his teams winning form in London – all without a single interception. But Allen’s success is sparking heated discussion over the return of Panthers starlet, Cam Newton, who is currently out due to injury. Much of it, is about whether the Panthers should move on from their former starter, who they once hailed as their MVP and continue to start with Allen.
Newton started in the Panthers first two games which resulted in a pair of near losses before deciding to fully recover and has now missed the last four games for his team. Of those two games he completed 56.2% of his passes, whereas Allen has completed 65.6% in four games. When Cam is in top form, there’s no denying that he is a special player but it seems he is struggling to stay healthy, having first been setback from a shoulder injury and now his foot. The discussion is less about whether Allen is better but that he is healthy. History speaks for itself and Cam has been one of the most influential quarterbacks of his generation but Allen is in great form and arguably, that’s what’s most important when you want to win.
Arguments are being made for both players, with some fans reminding critics that they are quick to forget that Newton was the Panthers MVP just a couple months ago and others stating that they no longer need Cam now Kyle has re-animated the Panthers offense. How would you have it? Return your long-serving starter to the starting line-up or stick with the new hot hands? Either way the men at the top have a difficult decision to make.
But the Panthers success is not down to Kyle Allen alone, as running back McCaffrey and the Panthers explosive defensive line has just as much to do with it. McCaffrey continues to cement his growing status as MVP in the NFL as the star running back has the most touchdowns, rushing yards and yards from scrimmage in 2019.
His two touchdowns put the Panthers ahead 17-7 at half-time and the second TD really was phenomenal to watch. He left the likes of Vernon Hargreaves III and Devin White scattered in his wake, escaping their grips as he ran in a 25-yard touchdown catch from Kyle Allen. It was poor awareness from a Bucs side who had failed to mark McCaffrey efficiently and allowed him to become dangerous in open space.
Jameis Winston didn’t help the Bucs out either, handing out interceptions left, right and centre during Sunday’s game. In fact, his first pass of the day was a turnover. The throw, aimed for Mike Evans was picked off by Panthers cornerback, James Bradberry.
Whilst Jameis passed for more yards – 400 compared to the Panthers 227 – the quarterback is yet to find consistency in his game. In total Winston accumulated five interceptions, seven turnovers and a fumble, putting his future at the Buccaneers into question. On that afternoon at Spurs Stadium, the number one draft pick looked more like a rookie than a professional which must have been disconcerting for any Bucs fans.
The Panthers were applying all kinds of pressure to the Bucs offensive line too, which may also serve as reason to why Winston struggled with the pass. The vertical rushes were forcing the Bucs quarterback to step inside and hold the ball a little longer as he surveyed the field, creating opportunity for the Panthers to pounce and sack Winston – which they did many a time. The Bucs QB was sacked seven times, three of which came in the first fifteen minutes of play. He was also hit ten times by the Panthers.
Winston needs to be quicker and more precise with the throw as when his pass found his receiving pair; Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, success followed. He even threw a touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate, though it wasn’t enough to mask his poor performance throughout much of the game.
At one point the Panthers had developed a 24-point lead on their Southern rivals and you could see the Buccaneers becoming desperate for points. They did well to catch up but Winston threw his fourth and fifth interception in the closing minutes of the game, eliminating any hopes of a comeback for his side.
Carolina Panthers Rank Second to the Saints in the NFC South League
After losing their first two games of the season, the Panthers are now on a four-game winning streak. “Riverboat Ron Rivera’s” men come in at second place in the NFC South league table and have climbed to fifteenth place in the NFL power standings following Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers.
The Bucs will take on the Tennessee Titans in Nashville after bye-week and their history is rigged with nail-biting and exhilarating moments – so expect this game to be a memorable one.
The Panthers will travel to the West Coast to face the San Francisco 49ers, who ran riot against defending NFC Champions, the Los Angeles Rams to remain unbeaten in the league. The 49ers have already surpassed last season’s win total and pose as a real challenge for the Carolina Panthers.
Meanwhile, the LA Rams will embark on a long journey across the Atlantic to star in the third fixture of the London International Series, this time being hosted at Wembley Stadium. They will face the Cincinnati Bengals at a “home” far away from home and we still have a limited number of packages available if you haven’t booked yours yet! The last time these two sides met was in 2015, when the Bengals defeated the Rams 31-7 but much has changed since then.
This game is bound to be exciting, who do you think will take the W?